books

Michael Moorcock’s “The Dreaming City” (1961)

Moorcock’s The Dreaming City is the first short story featuring Elric, his silver-skinned Melnibonean hero. The story appeared in the wake of Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings (published between 1954 and 1955) as well as the renaissance of interest in Howard’s Conan tales (from 1932), Leiber’s Fahfrd & Grey…

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The Construction of Lost Hearts by M.R. James

M.R. James’ Lost Hearts is a tautly-constructed short story with an impressive economy of narrative. It’s a macabre tale of an elderly occultist luring children to his home and murdering them in an attempt to magical powers and immortality. An unnamed narrator (James?) relates the tale. It seems to me…

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Piranesi by Susanna Clarke

ENTRY FOR THE FIRST DAY OF THE TENTH MONTH IN THE SECOND YEAR AFTER THE ALBATROSS CAME TO THE SOUTH-WESTERN HALLS This evening I finished reading Piranesi, Susanna Clarke’s new novel. When I closed the book it was dark outside and I needed to turn the light on in the…

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Some Thoughts About Caitlin R. Kiernan’s Agents of Dreamland

After the desert of ebony sand, there’s a great city of spiralling towers and crystal domes. Beyond the city is a vast methane ocean as still as glass. Furious storms travel the ocean. Benzene falls like snow. Ancient beings hunched over machines on this planet detect NASA’s New Horizons interplanetary…

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Edgar Rice Burrough’s John Carter of Mars

I’m currently working my way through Edgar Rice Burrough’s Barsoom series of pulp adventure novels. A Princess of Mars, the first of the series, was a surprisingly enjoyable romp reminding me of a mix of Gulliver’s Travels, Jules Verne and H.G. Wells. While I’ve always been aware of John Carter,…

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“Learning” and “Path-following”

I’m reading Robert Macfarlane’s wonderful The Old Ways. Early on he connects learning and path-following: The relationship between thinking and walking is also grained deep into language history, illuminated by perhaps the most wonderful etymology I know. The trail begins with our verb to learn, meaning ‘to acquire knowledge’. Moving…

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